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JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU

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    1. alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community ; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all ; and this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others." The alienation is to be without reserve : "If individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical." "^ach person, according to Rousseau, in the state possessed an equal and unalienable portion of the sovereignty of the whole and gained back, under the protection of the state, the rights be had given up.

    2. The contract of Rousseau was social and not governmental. To him, as to Hobbes, it was the total surrender of tbc whole community, not however to a despot exalted above the community, but to a com­munity itself. It was Rousseau's belief that the conditions essen­tial for growth, for the formation of a specific code of right and wrong, however rudimentary, are to be found Only in that ordered development of society which we call the state. The state, in his view, is not something external to the individual, but of the very essence of his being. So far from imposing restrictions on his liberty, it is the condition without which liberty would be only another name for bondage to his most selfish and most destructive passions. Accor­ding to Rousseau, there could be no conflict between authority vested in the people as a whole and their liberty as individuals. Viewed in this way, the social contract is not a contract which men make with their future ruler. The government is their mere agent. To make a contract with it would not only give it a dignity to which it ought not to pretend, it would place men under the rule of some individuals or groups, which would be nothing out. slavery. Such a contract would defeat the ends for which men come together, those ends being the fulfilment of their nature, which slavery would make impossible. For men not only need society in which to develop ; without freedom they cannot develop. Therefore then* problem is to create a society "in such a way that each, when united to his fellows, renders obedi­ence to his own will, and remains as free as he was before." And the sovereign "cannot impose upon its subjects any fetters that are useless to the community, nor can it even wish to do so." It should be observed here that the 'sovereign' means, in Rousseau, not the monarch or the government, but the community m its collective and legislative capacity.

    3. The social contract can be stated in the following words : "Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole." This act of association creates a moral and collective body, which is caiied the 'state' when passive, the 'sovereign' when active, and a *power' in



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    1. relation to other bodies like itself. Rousseau's conviction was that the community, the state, is something essentially different from the sum of the individuals who compose it ; that it has a being, a life, of its own which is not identical with that of its members, taken several­ly : that it is not an aggregate, but a corporate unity ; in a word, that it is an organization, to the life of which every member contributes, unconsciously as well as consciously. The idea of the state as an organism dominates the whole of the Contrat Social.

    2. The moral aspect of the problem needs some explanation. What did Rousseau mean by his assertion that, with the passage from the natural to the civil state, the sense of justice and duty is first awaken­ed in the mind of man ; that "his actions receive thereby a moral character which was wanting to them before" ; that "from a stupid and limited animal, he now for the first time becomes a reasoning being and a man in a word, that, apart from the state, no distinctively moral life is possible for man ? He surely did not mean that as a member of the state, man suddenly finds himself in posses­sion of qualities of which in his previous condition he had given no sign, no promise, whatever. Such a view would, in itself, be wholly irrational. The instinct of justice, that is, at least under the form of natural pity, is, according to Rousseau, from the first present in man's heart; but that this instinct should develop into a conscious sense of duty is, humanly speaking, impossible save under the fostering guid­ance of the state.

    3. Theory of General Will

    4. Further, the state which is created through the social contract is not, according to Rousseau, an arbitrary state. It is established with a view to maintaining an atmosphere in which individuals can enjoy their liberty in the best possible way. Also, it has to work through a 'general will'. The general will is, to him, no abstract idea, such as, once recognized, may be left to take care of itself. On the contrary, it is a Jiving principle of action : a principle to be kept alive only by the sleepless devotion, the watchful jealousy, of all the indivi­duals concerned. It is this devotion, this jealousy, which alone can "flold the state true, to the end for which it was founded—that is, the common good of all" : that common good, the necessity of obedience to which is "the one fundamental law of the state, the one law which flows directly and immediately from the social contract."


      1. 10 Contrat Social, I, viii.

      The conception of the 'general will' plays a very important part in Rousseau's system. In this connection, it is argued that the sove­reign need give no guarantees to its subjects, for, it is formed of the individuals who compose it, it can have no interest contrary to theirs. "The sovereign, merely by virtue of what it is, is always what it should be." This doctrine is misleading to the reader who does not



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    1. note Rousseau's somewhat peculiar use of terms. The sovereign is not the government, which, it is admitted, may be tyrannical ; the sovereign is a more or less metaphysical entity, not fully embodied in any of the visible organs of the state. Its impeccability, therefore, even if admitted, has not the practical consequences that it might be supposed to have.

    2. The will of the Sovereign, which is always right, is the 'general will'. Each citizen, qua citizen, shares in the general will, but he may also, as an individual, have a particular will running counter to the general will. The Social Contract involves that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be forced to do so. "This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free." This conception of being 'forced to be free' is very metaphysical in nature. The general will in the time of Galileo was certainly anti-Copernican ; was Galileo 'forced to be free' when the Inquisition compelled him to recant ? Is even a malefactor 'forced to be free' when he is put in prison ? Think of Byron's Corsair :

    3. O'er the glad waters of the deep blue sea Our thoughts as boundless and our hearts as free. Would this man be more 'free' in a dungeon ? The odd thing is that Byron's noble pirates are a direct outcome of Rousseau, and yet, in the above passage, Rousseau forgets his romanticism and speaks like a sophistical policeman. Hegel, who owed much to Rousseau, adopted his misuse of the word 'freedom', and defined it as the right to obey the police, or something not very different.

    4. Characteristics of General Will

    5. The general will is not identical with the will of the majority, or even with the' will of all the citizens. It seems to be conceived as the will belonging to the body politic as such. If we take Hobbes's view, that a civil society is a person, we must suppose it endowed with the attributes of personality, including will. But then we are faced with the difficulty of deciding what are the visible manifesta­tions of this will, and here Rousseau leaves us in the dark. We are told tnat the general will is always right and always tends to the public advantage ; but that it does not follow that the deliberations of the people are equally correct, for there is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will. How, then, are we to know what is the general will ? And a sort of answer is :

    6. "If, when the people, being furnished with adequate information, held its deliberations, the citizens had no communication one with another, the grand total of the small differences would always give the general will, and the decision would always be good."

    7. The conception in Rousseau's mind seems to be somewhat this : every man's pfelitical opinion is governed by self-interest, but self-interest consists of two parts, one which is peculiar to the individual



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    1. while the other is common to all the members of the community. If the citizens have no opportunity of striking log-rolling bargains with each other, their individual interests, being divergent, will cancel out, and there will be left a resultant which will represent their common interest; this resultant is the general will. Perhaps, Rousseau's con­ception might be illustrated by terrestrial gravitation. Every particle on the earth attracts every other particle in the universe towards itself; the air above us attracts us upward while the ground beneath us attracts downward. But all these 'selfish' attractions cancel each other out in so far as they are divergent, and what remains is a resultant attraction towards the centre of the earth. This might be fancifully conceived as the act of the earth considered as a com­munity, and as the expression of its general will.

    2. "To say that the general will is always right is only to say that, since it represents what is in common among the self-interests of the various citizens, it must represent the largest collective satisfaction of self-interest possible to the community. In my opinion this inter­pretation of Rousseau's meaning seems to accord with his words better than any other."67 According to Rousseau, the existence of subordinate associations within the state comes into direct conflict with the expression of the general will. Each of these will have its own separate will, which may conflict with that of the community as a whole. "It may then be said that there are no longer as many votes as there are men, but only as many as there are associations." This leads to an important consequence : "It is therefore essential, if the general will is to be able to express itself, that there should be no partial society within the state, and that each citizen should think only his own thoughts : which was indeed the sublime and unique system established by the great Lycurgus." In a footnote, Rousseau supports his opinion with the authority of Machiavelli.

    3. The 'general will' deals, according to Rousseau, not only with matters of public, as understood by definition, but also of private interest. It, in fact, cannot allow anything to stand between it and the complete loyalty of its citizens. It would, Rousseau believed, be better that lesser associations than the state should not exist, but if they do they must always be subordinate, and if any conflict of loyal­ties should ever occur, citizens must always obey the state. So jealous a God in the general will that Rousseau though it should even sub­stitute for the old religions of the world a new civic religion which all who would remain members of the state must accept, deviation



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    1. from which, once accepted, should be an offence punishable with death.

    2. The General Will and the Sovereignty

    3. The general will, Rousseau said, must always be inalienable and indivisible. Hence it cannot be represented in parliamentary institu­tions. "As soon as a nation appoints representatives," he remarked, ''it is no longer free, it no longer exists." England, he declared, was only free during elections, after which it is "enslaved and counts for nothing." He also added that "the use which it makes of the brief moment of freedom renders the loss of liberty well deserved." Also, the general will can't be delegated in any way whatever. Any attempt to delegate it will mean its end. He stated : "The moment there is a master, there is no longer a sovereign." As such, nothing less than all the people together can be trusted to will the general will. As Rousseau expressed it, it is only "the voice of the people" that is "the voice of God." It must take into account the voice of every citizen, since it was agreed in the contract that each is received as an "integral part of our group." It must bind them equally, since that also is implied in the contract in which each surrenders his all on equal terms, so that it is "in the interests of none to make them onerous to his fellows." It follows from Rousseau's arguments that the general will cannot be an executive will. The people ought not to be responsible for the details of government. Those who make the law should not carry it out, for it is the characteristic of the Sovereign General Will that it must be impersonal, and the decrees of government may frequently be particular and personal. Hence Rousseau made a clear distinction between the sovereign people and the government. The people, according to him, entrusts its executive power to its agent, the government, though it may retain a limited right of supervision over it. The enactment of any governmental organ is merely a device for carrying into effect the superior com­mands of the true law-making body. The state, he argued, is the entire body politic, manifesting itself in the supreme and sovereign 'general will', the government comprised the individuals chosen by the community to apply the general will. The government was created not by contract, as Hobbes thought, but by the act of the sovereign people. Rousseau was so confident of the indefeasible rights of the sovereign people that he was willing to delegate powers which Locke and Montesquieu thought dangerous.

    4. But such a system meets with failure in practice. The state would have to prohibit churches (except a State Church), political parties, trade unions, and all other organizations of men with similar econo­mic interests. The result is obviously the Corporate or Totalitarian State, in which the individual citizen is powerless. Rousseau himself realized that it might be difficult to prohibit all associations, and hence added, as an afterthought, that, if "there must be subordinate



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    1. associations, then the more there are the better, in order that they may neutralize each other." Also, he realized that the executive is inevitably an association having an interest and a general will of its own, which may easily conflict with that of the community. He maintained that while the government of a large state needs to be stronger than that of a small one, there is also more need of restrain­ing the government by means of the sovereign. The tendency of government to expand its powers at the expense of popular control led him to maintain later on that only in small states and under simple conditions can the general will permanently maintain its supremacy. Believing that the sovereign people must act directly in making law, Rousseau favoured direct democracy and held that representative assemblies were a sign of political decay. To prevent, therefore, government usurpation, he suggested periodical assemblies of the sovereign people, at which they should decide whether they wished to maintain the existing form of government and to retain existing office-holders. Thus, he tried to minimize the evils of government rule in big states where direct democracy, according to him, was not possible. But he could not protect the individual against the general will. His doctrine that the individual surrendered all his natural rights to the general will established a popular sovereign as absolute as the Leviathan of Hobbes. Against the sovereign people, the in­dividual possessed no rights.

    2. The Social Contract and Individual Liberty

    3. Rousseau's theory of social contract remains almost (elusive) illusive. We generally acknowledge that freedom is the essence of contract: freedom to make it, or not to make it, in the first instance, freedom to bargain over its terms, over the obligations it imposes on us, in the second. How is it with Rousseau's Contrat on these two crucial points ? The former freedom, the freedom of the individual to reject the contract, is strictly limited by his arguments : by the repeated admission that, directly one group of men has formed itself into a community, all the rest, by the mere force of circumstances, are compelled to follow suit. The latter freedom, the freedom of bargain­ing, is rejected root and branch. For dqes he not expressly assure us that the terms of the contract are so rigidly determined by the nature of the act that the smallest modification of them would make the whole covenant null and void ? And does he not go on to tell us that the terms in question may all be summed up in this sweeping condition : the absolute surrender of every associate with all his rights, to the community at large ? An act of such a character may be rich in benefits to those who engage in it; but to call it a contract is a gross abuse of the term.

    4. In fact, it is difficult to reconcile Rousseau's love of liberty, which formed such passionate expression as his assertion : "When a man renounces his liberty, he renounces bis essential manhood, his



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    1. rights and even his duty as a human being" which led him to com­ment on Aristotle's view—*hat some men are slaves by nature, that men can only be slaves by nature if they have first been made slaves against nature, either with his doctrine of Genera! Will or with his theory of Social Contract. For if the general will is supreme and absolute, the individual freedom becomes meaningless and the social contract remains unnecessary. On the contrary, if individual free­dom is significant and the social contract necessary, the general will cannot be supreme and absolute. Rousseau himself could not recon­cile them satisfactorily.

    2. His Influence on the French Society

    3. It is to be admitted, however, that in spite of Rousseau's inconsistencies and his failure to give an adequate solution to the old problems of eluding tyranny, his Contrat Social could fire the' revolu­tionary spirit in France. His advocacy of democracy, in spite of its limitations, was no doubt one of the things that made the French Government implacably hostile to the book ; the other, presumably, was the rejection of the divine right of kings, which is implied in the doctrine of the Social Contract as the origin of Government. Also, his advocacy that the whole duty of the state towards its members is not discharged when it has established formal equality for all before the law, but the state, as a matter of fact, should work for an opera­tive and real equality and that it (state) should neither create million­aires, nor beggars, revolutionized the French Society.

    4. The Contrat Social became the Bible of most of the leaders in the French Revolution, but no doubt, as the fate of Bible, it was not carefully read and was still less understood by many of its disciples. It reintroduced the habit of metaphysical abstractions among the theorists of democracy, and by its doctrine of the General Will it made possible the mystic identification of a leader with his people, which has no need of confirmation by so mundane an apparatus as the ballot box.

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    6. EDMUND BURKE (I 729-1 797)



    7. Burke : A Man of Political Action

    8. Edmund Burke was not of the type of an armchair thinker but like Machiavelii, he was primarily a man of political action. He did not set forth explicitly the principles on which his conception of state rests ; he did not give, for instance, an elaborate analysis of human nature that Hobbes thought necessary to base his political theory, or propounded a moral and social principle which Bentham made use of to establish his idea of 'greatest good of the greatest num­ber.' Nevertheless, he developed certain principles during the course of his dealing with some concrete contemporary political issues.

    9. Burke was, indeed, a fine example of a happy compromise bet­ween a too narrow devotion to immediate and concrete facts and a too elevated soaring above them. He was like Aristotle, who always tried to avoid the two extremes and preferred to choose the middle way. He was thus neither a radical nor a conservative in his approach to the problems of the day. His was a realistic mind—one in which theory illumines practice and practice tempers theory. He lived and worked during the period when political issues like those of the French Revolution, the American war of independence, the colonial policy of the British Government and the behaviour of the British administra­tors in India were the uppermost in the minds of the British states­men. Burke reflected over these issues seriously and with an open mind, gave went to his ideas which served as the main currents of his political philosophy.

    10. Burke was one of the most eminent of those political thinkers who have devoted their main energies to the actual conduct of affairs. He was born in Dublin and after a good but desultory education at Trinity College, Dublin, he crossed to England to study law, but had to abandon it for literature and politics. He first attracted public attention by a work entitled A Vindication of Natural Society (1756), a brilliant satire on Bolingbroke's recently published works devoted to a vindication of natural religion, wherein he showed how the argu­ments, by means of which Bolingbroke had tried to reduce Christian­ity to deism, would, if applied to politics, reduce ordered society to chaos. In 1759 he became secretary to a prominent member of Pailiament, W. G. Hamilton, who shortly afterwards (1761) was appointed secretary for Ireland Burke's tour in Ireland made him believe that the troublous condition of Ireland was due largely to the



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    1. penal religious laws, to the commercial disabilities of the Irish, to the factiousness of its parliaments, to the corruption of its administration and to the absenteeism of its landlords. And he never ceased through­out his public life to advocate reforms calculated to remove these evils.

    2. A new and important stage in Burke's career opened in 1765 when he was appointed private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, the official chief of the Whig Party, who had just been summoned by George III to form a ministry. A seat in Parliament was also found for bim by the end of the year. His political beliefs had become somewhat fixed by this time. He had acquired a profound admiration for the British Constitution, as determined by the revolution of 1688-89. He firmly believed in the government of the country by the landed aristocracy, of which class the Marquis of Rockingham was a splendid exemplar ; he burned with a zeal for justice, a hatred for oppression, an enthusiasm for good administration and a devotion to religion. His immense intellectual power and his torrential eloquence provided him with a unique position in the House of Commons and in the councils of his party. He speedily became, and for a quarter of a century (1765-90) remained the formulator and interpreter of Whig policy to the world.

    3. Defence of Cabinet System of Government

    4. Burke had an opportunity to apply his notions and principles to many political problems of first importance. He defended forcefully the party or cabinet system of government against the system of admi­nistration by the monarch and the 'king's friends', which George III —modelling himself on Queen Elizabeth—was trying to reintroduce. The king was determined not merely to reign but to rule. This meant completely reorienting the direction of Government. Since the settle­ment of 1688 the king had chosen for his ministers men acceptable to Parliament. Now an effort was made to choose only 'king's men' as ministers and to bend Parliament to the king's will as transmitted through his ministers. This was to be done by persuasion, bribery, or any other means available. Unfortunately, it appeared that Par­liament was only too willing to be won over to the king's cause and, what was perhaps worse, was prepared to use the same high-handed methods in its dealings with the people that the king used towards it.

    5. This was the situation which Burke had to fight against on entering Parliament. He believed, as against his opponents, that the government should exist for the whole people ; but he did not hold, as we today might, that the way to accomplish this was by putting the final power in the people's fnnds. He rather maintained that the People's representatives in Parliament should do, not what the people want, but what they from their superior wisdom and experience think is best. Hence his objection to the attempt of the 'king's men' to rule was not that they were taking the direction of affairs from its



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    1. rightful owners, the people, but that men of king's favour would not, and could not, rule for the best interests.of the country as a whole.

    2. Burke made his defence in his Observations on the Present State of the Nation (1769) and in his Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents (1770) with a masterly thoroughness which makes these works classics in English political philosophy.

    3. The second great question that engaged h>a attention was the con­troversy regarding taxation and representation, which had broken out early in George Ill's reign between the American colonies and the mother country. Matters in the colonies had been going from bad to worse for some years, and ultimately they cane to a head in open rebellion in 1775. Burke made two important speeches on this pro­blem. The first was on American Taxation (April, 1774) and the second was on Conciliation with America (March, 1775). These two speeches, together with his Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol on the Affairs of America (1777), constitute in Lord Morley's opinion the most admir­able of all his utterances. Burke had as little sympathy as any man with the abstract metaphysical arguments ("the 'rights of man') by which the colonists sought to justify their conduct ; but this did not distract him from what seemed to him the reason of their cause.

    4. Burke on America

    5. Burke could detect injustice and oppression in America as well as in England, and he also recognized incompetence, bungling and stupidity when he saw them. Thus, refusing to discuss the abstract rights of either the one side or the other, Burke pleaded for a con­ciliatory policy in the interests of peace and prosperity. "The ques­tion with me is, not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do ; but what humanity, reason and justice tell me I ought to do." And again, he argued on the actual declaration of war between the mother country and the colonies : "Lawyers, I know, cannot make the distinction for which I contend, because they have their strict rules to go by. But legislators ought to do what lawyers cannot; for they have no other rules to go by, but the great principles of reason and equity, and the general sense of mankind."68

    6. No doubt, Burke attached the utmost value to constitutional practice ; but he interpreted that practice not in a pedantic, but in a liberal and generous sense. Again and again he made an appeal to constitutional usage, 'to the ancient policy and practice of the em­pire', which provided a 'sure ground' for a stable administration of the mother country in the colonies. He appealed : "Leave the Ameri­cans as they anciently stood. . . .Let the memory of all actions, in



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    1. contradiction to that good old mode, on both sides, be extinguished for ever. Be content to bind America by laws of trade ; you have always done it. . . .Do not burden them by taxes ; you were not used to do so from the beginning. Let this be your reason for not tax­ing. . . ."*

    2. The first thing which struck Burke in the field of politics was the enormous complexity of the needs and interests at stake. Each fresh question that presents itself has its own peculiarities, and nobody can rightly decide about it unless he takes into account all its pecu­liarities and crucial conditions and circumstances. Burke, therefore, asked the statesmen of his time not to act on abstract principles. The general principles, according to him, must be there ; but these principles must not be drawn from 'the school', but from experience, and they ought to be modified to suit the circumstances of a particular case. A statesman "has to look not only before and after, but also, with no less vigilance, to the right hand and the left. Touch the existing system of parliamentary representation, and you run more than a risk of upsetting the balance of the whole constitution. Employ high-handed methods in America and you will soon come to tolerate them in your own country. . . ."69 In his speeches, Burke never forgot the immediate issues, but he also invariably saw beyond them. Thus in the course of his attacks on the British administration he laid the basis for a sound colonial policy.

    3. The Principle of Responsible Rale

    4. Burke's third great concern was the problem of the Government of India, closely connected with which was the problem of the corruption of British politics by the overwealthy 'nabobs' v.^o return­ed from the East to buy up the pocket boroughs of the homeland. His attack on the corrupt British rule in India came to a head in the famous and long-drawn-out impeachment proceedings against Warren Hastings, but to understand this phase of Burke's thought it is necessary to have some knowledge of an earlier episode—the debts of the Nabob of Arcot.


      1. 2 'American Taxation', ibid., pp. 173-74.

      Before the British rule in India was finally established, the direction of policies of the country continued to be in the hands of a private stock company with its head office in London. The directors of the company had to depend upon the company's servants in India for the real management of affairs there. And the company's servants had neither the knowledge of administration nor the character. As they were corrupt persons, they busied themselves in extorting huge for­tunes from the unhappy country (India). The directors did their best to regulate their practices and, among other measures, forbade their employees to accept gifts from the Indian rulers. Unfortunately,


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